Online Stock Trading Platforms 2021 Guide | Finder Canada

Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

Online Stock Trading: The rewards, risks and how to start

Trading apps make it easier than ever for everyday investors to make money buying and selling stocks. Pick a platform and learn how to trade.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked
Picture not described

Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn how we make money.

The start of 2021 has demonstrated the potential for everyday investors to profit from trading stocks online – as well as the risks involved. Investors gathered in trading chatrooms and armed with investing apps have sent the prices of some stocks on wild rides and become the talk of the financial world.

Good news, though: you don’t have to be a furious full-time day-trade warrior to make money trading stocks online. You can start with a few dollars, a few clicks and a little time.

With multiple online trading platforms, trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, NASDAQ and other markets is possible all from your computer or mobile phone. While online trading is a versatile way to invest money, it does carry some risk.

Compare online trading platforms

Name Product Available asset types Stock Fee Option Fee Account Fee ETF Transaction Cost Feature Table description
Wealthsimple Trade
Stocks, ETFs
Zero commissions on Canadian stocks.
Get a $25 bonus when you open a Wealthsimple Trade account and deposit and trade at least $100.
Interactive Brokers
Stocks, Bonds, Options, ETFs, Currencies, Futures
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
$1.50 min. per order
$0 (if monthly commissions are greater than or equal to US$10.00)
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
Extensive trading capabilities and global investment tracking.
Access market data 24 hours a day, six days a week and invest in global stocks, options, futures, currencies, bonds and funds from one single account.
Qtrade Investor
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs
$6.95 - $8.75
$6.95 - $8.75 + $1.25 per contract
$0 if conditions met, else $25/quarter
$0 - $8.75
Trade 100 ETFs free of charge.
Qtrade Investor offers low trading commissions and an easy-to-use platform with access to powerful tools and a wide selection of investment options. Trade 100 ETFs free of charge and thousands more for $8.75 or lower.
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities, Precious Metals
$9.95 + $1 per contract
$0 account fee and free ETF transactions.
Opt for self-directed investing and save on fees or get a pre-built portfolio and take some of the guesswork out.
Scotia iTRADE
Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities
$9.99 + $1.25 contract ($4.99 + $1.25 contract if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
$9.99 ($4.99 if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
Pay no annual account fees.
Buy, sell and trade ETFs, Equities, Options and more with competitive commissions.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Minimum deposit to invest Funding methods Management fee Available asset types
Wealthsimple Invest
Direct deposit, Bank transfer
0.40% - 0.50%
Stocks, Bonds, ETFs, Commodities
Get a $50 bonus when you open and fund your first Wealthsimple Invest account with a minimum initial deposit of at least $500. Trade and Cash accounts are not eligible.
CI Direct Investing (formerly WealthBar)
Direct deposit, Bank transfer
0.35% - 0.60%
Mutual Funds, ETFs
CI Direct Investing offers access to an exclusive and personalized investment portfolio. Get up to $10,000 managed free for a year when you sign up for your first CI Direct Investing account and fund your account.
Direct deposit, Bank transfer, Automatic bank withdrawals
Receive a cash bonus of $50.00-$225.00 when you open a new Justwealth account. RESP accounts require no minimum deposit to begin investing.
Automatic bank withdrawals
The Moka app rounds up every purchase you make to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change into low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Minimum Opening Deposit Commission Available Markets Platforms
Minimum US$25
Shares Desktop, Web Trading, Mobile Trading, MetaTrader 4
CFDs are leveraged products which involves greater risk than using cash resources only. You could lose all or more of your initial investment. Trade 80+ currency pairs and 220+ CFDs in equities, commodities and indices on

Compare up to 4 providers

What is online trading?

Trading is a more involved approach to investing and is also referred to buying shares or stocks. Instead of borrowing money or trying to raise capital, companies sell shares or partial ownership of the company to raise funds for expansion.

How do I get started with online trading?

While online stock trading can seem overwhelming, getting started is actually very easy. However, with such a steep learning curve, it doesn’t hurt to get a little practice before you jump in. Consider paper trading until you understand the basics or graduate to an online trading account, then consider charting software for more advanced online trading.

Paper trading

Paper trading is a great way to get a better understanding of online trading. It allows you to make theoretical trades based on simulated or actual market data so that you can practice trading. It’s easy to get started:

  1. Find a company or website that offers paper trading.
  2. Sign up using your email and any other contact information (no bank account info is necessary).
  3. Build your portfolio.
  4. Monitor markets and trends.
  5. Buy and sell assets, learn various instruments and explore markets.

Open a trading account

Once you’re ready to open an online trading account, you’ll need to decide which platform is best for you. The process will vary for each platform, so make sure to consider ease of use when choosing a product. Compare your options to find a platform that offers the features, fees and capabilities that you want, then sign up to start trading:

  1. Visit the website or mobile app of your preferred platform.
  2. Click open an account.
  3. Enter your personal information and any other details.
  4. Fill out your investment preferences or configure your portfolio.
  5. Link your bank account and fund your portfolio.
  6. Make your trades.

Charting software

For more advanced traders, charting software and market research reports may improve your trading abilities. They’ll provide a more in-depth look at various markets and can help you develop trading strategies to reach your short and long-term financial goals.

  1. Research different software and providers.
  2. Once you’ve found the right product, visit the website to sign up.
  3. Sign up by providing your personal information and any other details.
  4. Link your online trading account to make trades directly from the charts.

Wealthsimple Trade Stock Trading Account

Buy and sell thousands of US and Canadian stocks and ETFs commission-free. Get a $25 bonus when you open a Wealthsimple Trade account and deposit and trade at least $100.
  • Account fee: $0
  • Stock fee: $0
  • ETF cost: Free
Wealthsimple Trade
  • No commissions
  • No account fee
  • Self-directed investing
Go to site More info

How can I choose the best share trading platform for me?

With so many platforms and online trading products available, it’s important that you compare your options to find the right share dealing platform for your situation:

  • Compare the selection. Think about the features, assets and instruments to find a platform to meet your needs.
  • Compare commission fees. Some brokers charge extra for orders or specialized investment products. High-value trades are often charged as a percentage of the total trade value, rather than a fixed fee.
  • Availability of advice and research options. Online brokers usually offer market news and updates and other research tools that will let you investigate the trading history of individual stocks.
  • Integration with bank accounts. Some services let you transfer money easily from your trading account to a savings account. Others offer linked debit cards to use with your accounts.
  • Integration with technology. Consider how each platform integrates with your mobile device, bank account, apps and other technology.

Types of online trading

Online trading is a broad term that refers to different ways to buy and sell assets online. Here are some of the more popular methods of share dealing:

Stock trading

Traders buy and sell company shares through stock markets, which provide continuous updates on the prices of those shares. The value of a company’s shares changes daily, so shareholders aim to buy shares when they cost less and sell when they cost more to make a profit. You can expect transaction fees for buying and selling.

Option trading

Options are essentially a bet on how you think a stock will move within a set time. If you purchase a contract of 100 shares, that gives you the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a stock at a certain price, called the strike price, within a certain time frame. Here are two options:

Call. If you believe the price of a stock will go up by the expiry date, you buy a call option contract. This gives you the right to buy shares at the strike price. If the share price is higher than the strike price, either buy the shares at a discount when the contract expires or buy and immediately sell the option for a profit.

Put. If you think the price of a stock will go down by the expiry date, buy a put option contract. This gives you the right to sell the shares at the strike price. If the share price drops below the strike price, you could buy shares at market price and sell them at the strike price.

Bond trading

Bonds are issued by companies or governments to generate cash flow, finance debt, fund investments and more. Bonds have predetermined term lengths and pay interest (also called the coupon rate) at set intervals for the length of the term. Once the bond reaches maturity, it can be cashed for the principal amount.

A bond’s value can fluctuate based on the current interest rates, so some traders buy and sell existing bonds on secondary markets. If interest rates drop, the market value of your bond will increase, whereas if they rise, the value of your bonds will drop.

Forex trading

Foreign exchange (forex) trading is the process of buying and selling currencies. Unlike the stock market, the forex market is not one central exchange but rather a network of transactions between traders. Despite being decentralized, forex is the largest financial market in the world, with over $5 trillion in trades conducted daily. In this market, buyers purchase one currency in exchange for another. And since exchange rates change throughout the day, traders are able to make money by buying low and selling high, just like the stock market.

Futures trading

Futures are based on buying or selling stocks in the future with an agreement to buy or sell the stock. When you enter into a futures contract, you’re making an agreement to buy or sell an asset at a set price on a certain date.

Swaps trading

Swaps, like forex trades, are not completed on exchanges. Instead, they are done as over the counter transactions between traders, businesses or financial institutions. Swaps are essentially a contract involving cash flows or liabilities, like loans or bonds. However, the principal amount does not actually change hands. In most cases, one cash flow is fixed, while the other is variable, often based on a benchmark interest rate, floating currency exchange rate or index price.

CFD trading

CFDs, or contracts for difference, allow advanced traders to profit from the change in price of underlying assets like stocks, stock indices, currencies, commodities and more. Similar to swaps, the underlying asset does not actually change hands. In this type of transaction, the trader buys or sells a contract with a specific number of units of a particular instrument. If you buy a CFD and the price of the underlying asset goes up, you earn money. If you buy a CFD and the price goes down, you lose money.

Crypto trading

Crypto, or digital currency, trading is very similar to stock trading in that it involves buying or selling assets to make a profit. Just like stocks, there are numerous cryptocurrencies out there, allowing you to pick and choose where to invest your money. Once you purchase cryptocurrency on an online exchange, you can either sell it, hold on to it, or buy other assets like stocks, other cryptocurrencies or even goods and services.

Forwards trading

Forwards trading is just like futures trading but with more flexibility. While futures contracts include a set number of a specific asset at a predetermined delivery date, forwards contracts allow you to customize the terms. The contract holders make an agreement to buy or sell the asset, aiming to make a profit by predicting price movements.

Binary options trading

Binary options are simpler versions of options contracts. They’re essentially a bet on whether the price of an asset will rise or fall, but unlike options contracts, the underlying assets are never exchanged. Instead, traders buy a call if they believe the price will rise or a pull if they think the price will fall. If the price of the asset is above the strike price at the expiration date, the holder of a call is paid a fixed return. If the price of the asset is below the strike price, the holder of a put is paid a fixed return. If the trader makes an incorrect prediction, the original investment is lost.

Selling short

This is a bet that a stock price is going to fall. Traders borrow shares and sell them, anticipating they can buy them back later to settle the loan at a lower price and pocket the difference. But if the share price rises instead, they have to buy at the higher price and take a loss.

Benefits of online trading

There was a time when all trading was done through brokers, which made it tough to get into if you didn’t have the money, time or connections. Today, there are all sorts of online trading platforms and apps that offer benefits that were unheard of 20 years ago. Some of the benefits on online trading are:

  • Flexibility. Most platforms are free and allow you to trade from anywhere with an Internet connection.
  • Multiple asset classes and trading methods. Trade thousands of stocks, bonds, ETFs and other assets using methods like options contracts, swaps and futures.
  • Tools. There are all sorts of resources, tools and indices that can help you understand the ins and outs of online trading.
  • Real-time updates. Monitor asset prices and stock market news from your phone, tablet or laptop.
  • Instant trades. Transactions are completed almost instantly, allowing you to trade on the go and keep up with the markets.
  • Low cost. Many websites and platforms will only charge a commission fee, allowing you to keep more of your earnings.
  • Unbiased trading. Online trading allows you to do your own research and trades, meaning you won’t be influenced by brokers or financial advisors who are after a commission.

What are the risks of share dealing?

Online trading allows almost anyone to start investing, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll earn money. Just like any other investment, there are a few things to watch out for:

  • Market risk. Stocks, foreign currencies and other assets are volatile and tough to predict, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll earn money or break even.
  • Fees. While fees may seem low, you’ll pay commission on every trade, which can quickly add up. Plus, sign-up fees, transaction fees and other charges are not unheard of.
  • No learning curve. Besides your research and intuition, there’s nobody telling you how to trade. You’ll need to practice to better understand online trading, otherwise, you risk losing your money.
  • Easy and addictive. Since making a trade is as simple as opening an app or visiting a website, it’s easy to get hooked on online trading. And if you aren’t seeing the returns you expected, you may be tempted to put more of your money at risk.
  • Internet dependent. You’ll need an Internet connection to trade online, so if that fails, you could miss out on trades or important information.
  • Scams. Watch out for unsolicited offers to invest your money or platforms that claim to be stacked in your favour — there’s usually a catch.

Bottom line

Online trading platforms make it easy to invest in stocks, bonds, foreign currencies and other assets at any time, no matter where you are. Most offer multiple ways to trade, creating new opportunities to earn money and allowing you to diversify your portfolio. But online trading can be complicated, so make sure you understand how it works before diving in. Once you’re ready to trade, compare your options to find a platform that suits your trading needs.

Frequently asked questions

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

Read more on this topic

Go to site